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Author Topic: Monastery vs. church??  (Read 15725 times) Average Rating: 0
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Timos
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« on: October 13, 2005, 02:26:54 PM »

Hi, I recently visited Boston MA, and I was talking to some friends about how I'd love to visit the local monasteries. Wel it turns out that many priests whom I've talked to are very anti-monastery and are very hostile to the very idea of monasticism, espexially those of Elder Ephraim in Arizona. Which also begs the question why is he so contraversial? All my friends who have visited him separatyely came back telling me the same thing, that he was a kind, sweet man who had the ability to look into your soul and offer you guidance.

Whats so wrong about that? I really don't see where people get off on saying that because his spiritual children follow him, he is suddenly a cult leader. A cult leader brainwashes people. I don't think Elder Ephraim does that. As spiritual children, they are supposed to listen to their spiritual father or else that is not true obdience.

As I'm a Canadian, it makes situations even more sticky. Elder Ehpraim established 2 female monasteries and 1 male monastery up here. The two convents are still open, but the male monastery was moved down to Michigan (Agias Triados) which sparked bitter clashes between our archbishop and Elder Ephraim. I know the Archbishop personally so its sometimes uneasy telling him I visit the monasteries under Elder Ephaim.

Then again the thing I don't understand is that people who are Elder Ephraim's spiritual children will call him "The elder" as if there aren't any other elders around whereas there are Elder Joseph in michigan and people will inisist on only going to "his" monasteries rather than any monastery under the GOCA or even just canonical Orthodox monasteries.
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2005, 03:12:56 PM »

My thoughts on the subject(s) you've brought up:

1) General Anti-Monasticism

Is your bishop(s) Antiochian?ÂÂ  That would help explain a lot.ÂÂ  If so, that is rather sad.

2) Elder Ephraim/Guru Cult Leader

Disclaimer:ÂÂ  I have never visited his nor any other of his monasteries.

I was reading a long diatribe recently on the Indiana List that talked about this.ÂÂ  From what I gather, I think Elder Ephraim is indeed a sweet old man (as you've said others say) and that he does have these great abilities.ÂÂ  On the other hand, he has some idiosyncrasies probably due to his cultural background that are inconsequential or could be looked at as just plain nonesense/silly (e.g. Protocols of the Elders of Zion).ÂÂ  Furthermore, some of the advice given on occasion was probably misappropriate for the given person's situation, misunderstood by said person or just out of context for their situation.ÂÂ  Remember, the Elders/priests there are fallable humans as well.ÂÂ  Just because they are called an "Elder" doesn't mean they can't give wrong advice.ÂÂ  If you have confessed to multiple priests before or even just one for that matter, has the advice ALWAYS been good or effective?ÂÂ  Maybe the priest is just a bad fit for you?ÂÂ  Remember also that the priest/Elder is used to advising and running a MONASTIC household where the monks have vowed obedience to an Elder/Spiritual Father, so that is usually their frame of reference.ÂÂ  We have Free Will for a reason and sometimes need to exercise it.ÂÂ  I'm not saying to be a "Cafeteria Christian", but we do have Free Will for a reason.

I would like to visit St. Anthony's one day, but we all are challenged to keep on the narrow path, which means a balanced perspective.  Worry about yourself and your own passions, not the Elder - he has to worry about himself as well.
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2005, 03:34:20 PM »

I agree that a lot of it is general anti-monasticism, which is prevalent among many Orthodox in the U.S. 

I think there is also a lot of "telephone gossip".  One woman I know confesses to Elder Ephraim relatively frequently.  She has the bad habit of telling people the advice he gives her.  Her advice is very different from the advice he generally gives people, due to her particular circumstances.  People take things she says out of that context, exaggerate or misinterpret it, and then spread it around.  Some then get the idea that he tells people pretty wacky thing routinely.  I think this accounts for many of the problems we see.  It's a good reminder that what we hear in confession is for us, and us only, unless otherwise stated, and we should keep it that way.

I think that there is a lot of cultural issues there.  Elder Ephraim is from Mt. Athos, grew up in Greece.  There is a particular cultural context surrounding that that most Americans, including second or third generation Orthodox (Greeks, Arabs, Russians, etc.) are not necessarily familiar with.  It leads to misunderstandings, excesses, etc.  Even in Greece most today have become little different than other Europeans (i.e. secular) and so it can't be assumed that recent Greek immigrants are fully comfortable with this culture that would have been presumed a couple generations ago.

For my part, I have experience with the Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring (one of "his" monasteries) as the abbess is my wife's godmother and another nun there is my daughter's godmother.  We have also visited St. Anthony's and my spiritual father's spiritual father is Elder Paisios, St. Anthony's abbot.  We are also acquainted with quite a number of people who are Elder Ephraim's spiritual children.  I also have a good friend who was a novice at St. Anthony's for two years.  In my experience, I have never seen or heard the various zany things that are attributed to Elder Ephraim in fact often quite the opposite.  I have seen, however, a situation that resembled Fr. Theologos' much discussed situation, where a mother went ballistic when her 29-year-old daughter attempted to enter a monastery, to the point where various people were looking to restraining orders and police protection.  This poor woman is left waiting to enter the monastery until her parents will consent or at least leave her alone.

As for referring to Elder Ephraim as "the Elder", I think this is common.  In listening to tapes from Constantine Zalalas, it seems like this is frequently used regarding an elder one is close to in pious Greek circles.  Even those who refer to Elder Ephraim as "the Elder" still refer to Elders Paisios or Joseph, for example, as elders.
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Timos
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2005, 03:53:57 PM »

No, I am not Antiochian. I am Greek Orthodox. Also, I am not worried *about* the elder, I was worried whether the stuff being said had any validity. Iustinos, last year I went to the St. Nicholas Ranch in August and I met up with Ierontissa Markella. She really is sweet. She was born not too far away from where my parents were born too.
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2005, 04:05:35 PM »

Hi, I recently visited Boston MA, and I was talking to some friends about how I'd love to visit the local monasteries. Wel it turns out that many priests whom I've talked to are very anti-monastery and are very hostile to the very idea of monasticism, espexially those of Elder Ephraim in Arizona. Which also begs the question why is he so contraversial? All my friends who have visited him separatyely came back telling me the same thing, that he was a kind, sweet man who had the ability to look into your soul and offer you guidance. 

I can partially explain some of the anti-monasticism in the Northeast, especially in the GOA, by bringing up Holy Transfiguration.  The relationship between that monastery and this Metropolis (then Diocese) was bad enough at the end that it convinced the Metropolitan (and Archbishop Iakovos) that monasticism isn't ready for America and vice-versa.

As far as the controversy with Fr. Ephraim, it is partially with him (from the perspective of people) and partially with the circumstances in which he came to America (from the perspective of the other clergy).  I don't think he left Mt. Athos under the best of circumstances (please, someone, correct me if I'm wrong) - but then again not everyone on the Holy Mountain is Holy, so it is possible it was unwarranted.  When he came to this country, the chancellor for Archbishop SPYRIDON made an arrangement that basically the monasteries would be under Fr. Ephraim's control, not the local bishops' (which is completely uncannonical).  So there was a lot of tension between Fr. Ephraim and the hierarchy/clergy there too.  And the fact that he wants "his" monasteries to do only Greek alienates some of the non-Greek members of the GOA.


Whats so wrong about that? I really don't see where people get off on saying that because his spiritual children follow him, he is suddenly a cult leader. A cult leader brainwashes people. I don't think Elder Ephraim does that. As spiritual children, they are supposed to listen to their spiritual father or else that is not true obdience. 

There are people who claim this to be true - that he brainwashes people.  Then again, I've met spiritual children of his who are perfectly normal people and don't exhibit this supposed brainwashing.  I think in general there are plenty of people who do follow the elders (not just Ephraim) as if they were cult leaders.  And there are some elders that tell their spiritual children to live the same lifestyle that the monks live in the monastery.  So I can understand where the perception comes from.

As I'm a Canadian, it makes situations even more sticky. Elder Ehpraim established 2 female monasteries and 1 male monastery up here. The two convents are still open, but the male monastery was moved down to Michigan (Agias Triados) which sparked bitter clashes between our archbishop and Elder Ephraim. I know the Archbishop personally so its sometimes uneasy telling him I visit the monasteries under Elder Ephaim. 

If the monastery moved without the permission of the Archbishop, then the move was completely out of line and uncannonical; and while I know the canons have their leeway, with monks and the monastic tradition the necessity of obedience means that the canons are treated with akrivia when applying to monks.

Then again the thing I don't understand is that people who are Elder Ephraim's spiritual children will call him "The elder" as if there aren't any other elders around whereas there are Elder Joseph in michigan and people will inisist on only going to "his" monasteries rather than any monastery under the GOCA or even just canonical Orthodox monasteries. 

I don't know why one would avoid the other monasteries... but just that statement does sound cult-ish.  (I'm NOT saying Fr. Ephraim has a cult).  But it is common just to refer to one's "favorite" elder just as "the Elder," especially if the context allows for it, or if the saying is widely known to be attributable to one particular elder.
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2005, 04:06:38 PM »

No, I am not Antiochian. I am Greek Orthodox. Also, I am not worried *about* the elder, I was worried whether the stuff being said had any validity. 

Some of it does, and some of it comes from people who either have an anti-Ephramite or anti-Monastic agenda.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2005, 04:26:01 PM »

"and people will inisist on only going to "his" monasteries rather than any monastery under the GOCA or even just canonical Orthodox monasteries.  "

I doubt that this comes from Elder Ephraim.  I know the Gerontissa Markella has a great deal of respect for Fr. Jonah and his brotherhood in Point Reyes Station (OCA) and for Mother Barbara (Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa--OCA).  I've been encouraged to confess to Fr. Jonah at times.  You can see pictures of Abbot Gerasim and Fr. Damascene from Platina visiting Elders Ephraim and Paisios on-line.  There are pictures of Gerontissa Markella and one or two of her nuns at the ROCOR monastery on Vashon Island at the Monastery of the Savior website.  I know that Gerontissa Markella and some of her nuns have visited other canonical monasteries elsewhere.  Again, maybe this was advice specifically for them, but I doubt that it's coming from the monastics themselves.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2005, 04:36:40 PM »

To put it simply the whole discussion on the Indiana List, about Father Ephraim and monasticism in general has got me sick to my stomach.  Also, to see Father Ephraim and his brotherhood listed on the Prokrov list is also painful. 
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2005, 04:52:24 PM »

Eh... don't worry about it. God allows these things so that His servants are perfected in every virtue. If there wasn't anybody to accuse them then they would lose the blessing...

"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt. 5:11-12)

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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2005, 05:02:10 PM »

To put it simply the whole discussion on the Indiana List, about Father Ephraim and monasticism in general has got me sick to my stomach.ÂÂ  Also, to see Father Ephraim and his brotherhood listed on the Prokrov list is also painful.ÂÂ  

monkvasyl,
Re: Pokrov - I think everyone is in agreeance here.  They really have taken a noble idea and gone overboard.

Indiana List - why so distraught?  As icxn just said, why not look at it as a blessing to perfect oneselves?  Yes, there is a lot of hubub regarding that discussion, but I think there are a lot of things that can be learned from all of the discussion regarding normative practice, context of situations and just that fact that we are all (including Elder Ephraim) still fallable humans.
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2005, 05:45:48 PM »

Timos,

Being Greek Orthodox, and being in Toronto, where I believe you are too, I think that this is a real serious issue.  Just the other month I had messaged Fr. Drossos from the Archdiocese's website and I asked, "why is there not a men's monastery under the Archdiocese"?  I got this run-around answer, that left me with a really awkward feeling. 

A cousin of mine went to Hegumen Joseph at Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan for certain counsel, and he was a bit irritated by what he heard.  He went for a second opinion to a local Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto, and the priest scoffed him and told him "only the very bad go to monasteries".  I just couldn't believe it. 

What fosters this anti-monasticism?  I mean, in the Orthodox Voice, there was even an article months back saying that many were making the Geronda out to be some sort of idol.  Absolutely ridiculous, and it grieved me to see it in an Orthodox newsletter.  We're talking about a man who toiled to bring this jewel of Orthodoxy, monasticism, to North America, as did many brother Orthodo of different denominations.  Because it is a foreign sentiment to say "flee the world and the worldly", people see him as a cult leader? 

Timos, I don't know Archbishop Sotirios personally, but I must say there are a few things about His grace that scandalize me, and many.  The fact that the monastery was in Ontario, and now is not, is a great one.  Another, is that there hasn't been an attempt to offer a monastery.  I can't help but think that there was a power struggle here, and that the Archbishop felt threatened by monks who are far more traditional.  For instance, very few of our priests here in Toronto would tell you that it's not right to marry someone who is not Orthodox, like they would not hesitate to say in the monastery.  There is an undermining of the bishop's words, which are, let's face it, contrary to the Canons of the Church.  I'm certainly not judging, but I hope and pray that he will see this and change his ways. 

I would like to talk to you more about this some time if you choose.  You can message me personally.

In Christ, the least,
Theodore(Ted)
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2005, 06:16:21 PM »

Timos,

Being Greek Orthodox, and being in Toronto, where I believe you are too, I think that this is a real serious issue.ÂÂ  Just the other month I had messaged Fr. Drossos from the Archdiocese's website and I asked, "why is there not a men's monastery under the Archdiocese"?ÂÂ  I got this run-around answer, that left me with a really awkward feeling.ÂÂ  

A cousin of mine went to Hegumen Joseph at Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan for certain counsel, and he was a bit irritated by what he heard.ÂÂ  He went for a second opinion to a local Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto, and the priest scoffed him and told him "only the very bad go to monasteries".ÂÂ  I just couldn't believe it.ÂÂ  

What fosters this anti-monasticism?ÂÂ  I mean, in the Orthodox Voice, there was even an article months back saying that many were making the Geronda out to be some sort of idol.ÂÂ  Absolutely ridiculous, and it grieved me to see it in an Orthodox newsletter.ÂÂ  We're talking about a man who toiled to bring this jewel of Orthodoxy, monasticism, to North America, as did many brother Orthodo of different denominations.ÂÂ  Because it is a foreign sentiment to say "flee the world and the worldly", people see him as a cult leader?ÂÂ  

Timos, I don't know Archbishop Sotirios personally, but I must say there are a few things about His grace that scandalize me, and many.ÂÂ  The fact that the monastery was in Ontario, and now is not, is a great one.ÂÂ  Another, is that there hasn't been an attempt to offer a monastery.ÂÂ  I can't help but think that there was a power struggle here, and that the Archbishop felt threatened by monks who are far more traditional.ÂÂ  For instance, very few of our priests here in Toronto would tell you that it's not right to marry someone who is not Orthodox, like they would not hesitate to say in the monastery.ÂÂ  There is an undermining of the bishop's words, which are, let's face it, contrary to the Canons of the Church.ÂÂ  I'm certainly not judging, but I hope and pray that he will see this and change his ways.ÂÂ  

I would like to talk to you more about this some time if you choose.ÂÂ  You can message me personally.

In Christ, the least,
Theodore(Ted)

Ted, I'm surprised your cousin got this response @ a local Toronto Greek Orthodox church. So far, I've only experienced this in the States.

Orthodox Voice? Isn't that a Greek-American Orthodox paper? I believe here we have "Orthodoxi Poreia" or Orthodox Way. We have some pretty rediculous stuff in there too like when some rich greek guy donates a million bucks, the archbishop makes sure the patron's name is written down. It literally says "3 pious christians have donated money to our holy metropolis..." The whole power thing is more of a control in Canada as its a lot smaller. In our church, the ppl with their names engraved on gold plated tags (so and so donated 15,000 dollars) have the most respect and conrol. What happened to "don't let your right hand know about what your left hand is doing?"

When I heard that the monastery moved down south I was quite saddened as it was minutes from my house. Now, it's three hours acorss the border!

Also the archbishop is rubbing off our priests. 5 years ago, all our churches were traditional. Now, increasingly our churches are getting choirs and organs and doing the same thing that American Greek churches have been doing for decades. The monasteries have the duty of keeping the parishes in line and the priests just don't like it.

Ted, I might actually know you. I'll message you.
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2005, 07:23:18 PM »

Timos,

Amen!!!! These are exactly my qualms about the situation with the Archdiocese in Canada! You hit the nail on the head.  I think we may be quite a lot alike.  And yes, you're right, it is Orthodoxh Poreia, Orthodox Way...I got the names mixed up.  I got your message, and I appreciate it.  Look forward to talking with you.

In Christ,
Theodore (Ted)
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2005, 07:34:43 PM »

I live in Arizona and have been going to St. Anthony's fairly frequently (usually once or twice a month - on weekdays, I rarely go there on Sundays) for a little over three years now.  I've also spend two months living on the Holy Mountain.  So I do have some first hand experience here.

Elder Sophrony said that you can't simply take a thriving monastery from Greece or Russia and drop it in the West and expect it to thrive.  I think the growing pains and transitions with that is at the root of many of the problems associated with Elder Ephraim.  I'll lay aside political correctness and simply be blunt - these are my obersvations...  Eastern Europeans and in particular Greeks tend to be anti-semetic, racist and xenophobic.  Greeks think they are by far a supiour race of humans than the rest of us, and simply cannot understand why they aren't the world superpower (maybe they should first try to make toilets than can flush toilet paper, but that is another issue).  Hence the ONLY LOGICAL explanation is that Israel and America are working to suppress Greece.  Thus any conspiracy theory (no matter how outlandish) that involves America or Israel is swallowed hook, line and sinker by Greeks.  So when you bring over monks from Greece (who are a product of that culture and worldview) there will be a cultural clash between Americans, Canadians, Australians etc.  But monks are supposed to experts on the spiritual life, not geopolitcs - so this can be easy to look past.  Also part of that is the Hellenocentric worldview (think GreekisChristian without the fake idol worship of the EP). ÂÂ

As to the other problems at the American monasteries.  I would wager to say about 90% of the blame lies on certain lay persons associated with the monastery.  They are psychologically unbalenced people simply looking for a guru somewhere and happen to stumble upon the monastery.  Most simply have no parish since "all parishes are too worldly, only the monastery is pure" etc. and simply are not well adjusted to life.  All of my friends involved with the monasteries and myself are very involved in our own parishes and lead normal lives - we are the majority.  The problem though is this sizable minority doesn't have the gift of silence - they love to be "preaching" what they assume are the "commands of the Elder" (but often when forced will admit Geronda never quite actually said that) to the heathens in parishes.  Eventually these people get burnt out and move on to find their next guru elsewhere. ÂÂ

As for the other 10% - I think the monasteries do sometimes have a hard time relating to those directly outside of their circle.  I.e giving someone a trillion prostrations, an eight hour a day prayer rule etc. might be good for a monk, but not the average lay person.  Also the attitude that it is OK to be blatantly disobediant to bishops (as long as you have Geronda's blessing) is very troubling to me.  Also the instance that EVERYTHING must be in Greek gets old - but that is unsustainable in America, especially as more and more newer novices come not knowing a word of Greek. ÂÂ
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2005, 09:06:48 PM »

Well, and I think it is worth mentioning what a geronda told a friend of mine: for every holy monk in the monastery, the devil has sent 10 bad monks to try to distract and destroy them.  This might be an over-exaggeration of the ratio, but its worth remembering.
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« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2005, 09:45:13 PM »

As for the other 10% - I think the monasteries do sometimes have a hard time relating to those directly outside of their circle.  I.e giving someone a trillion prostrations, an eight hour a day prayer rule etc. might be good for a monk, but not the average lay person.  Also the attitude that it is OK to be blatantly disobediant to bishops (as long as you have Geronda's blessing) is very troubling to me.  Also the instance that EVERYTHING must be in Greek gets old - but that is unsustainable in America, especially as more and more newer novices come not knowing a word of Greek. 

I think you might be pretty much just echoing what I said...confirming that my guessing is not far off.  Anyway, cute story from our choir director:  She spent a month or so in Greece a while back, with a several day stay at a women's monastery.  A nun there (maybe even the Abbess or a Gerontissa - don't remember) told her that it was imperative that she learn to speak Greek - because that's all they speak in heaven!  Cheesy
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« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2005, 10:24:42 PM »

In our Canadian parishes, we have a senstivie unbalanced "balance" between Greek and English. The litanies and everything else the priest says is rotated betwen greek and english. The chanting is all greek except for a lord have mercy and a to you o lord here and there in broken english. Once ppl start asking for more english or more greek (which really escpaes my mind as like 60% of it is already in greek), chaos erupts in our churches. So most youth either don't come or they come and have no clue whats going on. Great.
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« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2005, 10:25:34 PM »

Oh yeah, unless of course if a parish has an english chanter, then the liturgy is half greek half english
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2005, 07:31:43 PM »

I believe that I have a very good knowledge of St. Anthony's monastery here in the US.  I have also personally confessed to Elder Ephraim.  I will be attending Medical School next year, thus I believe I have a unique persepective on the monastery:

1.)  The monastics, at least the ones I spoke to, seemed to be in very good mental health. 

2.)  Although the facilities are beautiful, the ascetic effort is tremendous.  I volunteered to clean up tables and found that some monks only ate a few olives for dinner.

3.)  The laity I think are really the ones to blame.  Example- "I want to buy a house close to a monastery and a Greek Orthodox Church."  Elder Ephraim would say,"God bless you, go ahead."  The person would tell everyone else that Geronda "Told him to buy the property so he bought it." HELLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOO.  Any priest would tell you to buy property next to a Church.  Are you kidding?!??!!??!  You don't need a blessing for everything

4.)  I think Elder Ephraim is probably one of the most patient people i know.  He listens to old ladies COMPLAIN for 3 hours a day.  If I were him, I would go completely crazy.  But he does it, and for that he should be commended.

So some people certainly have issues with authority.  Also, monasteries tend to attract alot of wackos.  Some people who go there are just not mentally competent. 

Anyway, that was my 2 cents.
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2005, 08:14:19 PM »

...
1.) The monastics, at least the ones I spoke to, seemed to be in very good mental health.
...
4.) I think Elder Ephraim is probably one of the most patient people i know. He listens to old ladies COMPLAIN for 3 hours a day. If I were him, I would go completely crazy. But he does it, and for that he should be commended.

So some people certainly have issues with authority. Also, monasteries tend to attract alot of wackos. Some people who go there are just not mentally competent.

Anyway, that was my 2 cents.

Can anyone defend Elder Ephraim when one of his monastics writes about his experience with him especially the Elders writings are bit benign. I am only relying on one source from Not Athos in America: http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com/

Quote
I was taught to believe in conspiracy theories (some of which were that man never landed on the moon, that America is made up of a shadow government that is run by Masons and Jews) and that the Protocols of Zion are an authentic document rather than racist fiction.

Quote
I was taught to flagellate myself with electrical cord when I had sinful thoughts and that this was normal behavior that Saints indulged in.

Quote
There was talk of “spies” sent to the monastery from the Archdiocese to keep an eye on things and report to Bishop Anthony. If you were suspected then usually a lay pilgrim who was loyal to the monastery would talk to you in the men’s guesthouse or whenever there was an opportunity to see what your purpose was there. This would happen usually without express orders from anyone at the monastery, but they would find out later that it had been done. We were all told, of course, to deny that the monastery re-baptized people to anyone who inquired until they were found to be trustworthy by Geronda Paisios or “Elder” Ephraim. It was very important to them to keep this a secret. I was told to take it with me to my grave.
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« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2005, 08:49:45 PM »

I think this is best left not spoken about on a public forum.  The only thing that can be accomplished is the spreading of gossip!
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« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2005, 10:08:52 PM »

The Monastic tradition has been part of the Orthodox Church since quite early on. It is rich and sustaining. And, here in America, rather new. For our family, the tradition of being able to visit monasteries has touched us deeply. When we wlived in Georgia, we loved to visit the Sts. Mary and Martha Monastery in Wagener, SC (they have a website with many lovely photographs).  When we lived in New Mexico, the St. Michael's Skete in Cañones was of great comfort and a spirtual enrichment.  Here in South Texas, the Holy Archangels Monastery in Kendalia, although father away, is a lovely and deeply moving place of pilgrimage.  My husband just visited the monastery of St. John of Shanghai near SF, Calif. and it was a lovely retreat for him. For all laity who can, making period visits to monasteries is food for the soul - way better than any chicken soup!  Just my 2 cents worth...
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« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2005, 10:17:57 PM »

I second Landon's post.
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« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2005, 10:23:26 PM »

Can anyone defend Elder Ephraim when one of his monastics writes about his experience with him especially the Elders writings are bit benign. I am only relying on one source from Not Athos in America: http://gerondaephraim.tripod.com/


No offense Alex, but this stuff seems like a load of BS. Seriously. Tons of my friends are those who either confess @ or go to St. anthony's and other monasteries a lot and I knwo for a fact that they are not hallucinating ideas or mentally unstable. They've told me that the monastery can seem a little harsh or even extreme, but hey it's a monastery, what do you expect? Thats the whole point.

Oh yeah, and I wasn't trying to attack you just now. Just give a different perspective on the issue.
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« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2005, 10:30:59 PM »

Hello Landon and Asteriktos, the intention of my post wasn't to spread or start rumours. It was to anaylze and find out what is true versus what is not. such as is it true that if you confess to the Elder or to other priests @ the monasteries, that you have to tell them exactly what you do in your personal life such as how getting a blessing to *consumate* (or make the marriage a reality by doing that which can ultimately bear fruit, hint hint:) is that true? If that is true, why would people follow something rediculous like that?

Also, whats up with separating Elder Ehpraims monasteries from other Greek Orthodox Archdiocese monasteries? OK, maybe they dont use english and are more 'traditional' but they shouldnt be seen as better. a monastery is a monastery is a monastery. For example on the St. Anthony's website it says on top of a map of all the monasteries "Our Affiliated Monasteries" ignoring all the other Greek Orthodox monasteris under the GOAA. If these monasteries are under the archdiocese, they should include the other monasteries which were not necessarily founded by the Elder. And I say this with all due respect to Elder Ephraim and to the GOAA. It just makes it seem as if they are their own "exclusive club" on the side of the GOAA.
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« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2005, 10:38:37 PM »

I think one of the issues encountered here is the culture clash that is inherent when the monastic life intersects with the secular life;  for some people, the spiritual counsels of a monk are good, in that they lead a life that closely mirrors it; but for most, the spiritual counsels of a monk may not be the best thing, especially if they are geared towards the monastic life.  While we are called to be "not of the world," we must exist in the world and learn how to operate within it in such a way as to reflect Christ's life.  But when we seek spiritual guidance from monastics, often times they will give us advice that takes us away from a place where we can work in the world; its not a bad thing, but not intended for the great majority of us... my two drachmas (which aren't even worth ONE cent, let alone two).

{edit} I fixed a spelling mistake, knowing fully well that there are probably ten that I've still missed. {/edit}
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« Reply #26 on: October 15, 2005, 11:38:59 PM »

Hello Landon and Asteriktos, the intention of my post wasn't to spread or start rumours. It was to anaylze and find out what is true versus what is not.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 . a monastery is a monastery is a monastery.

   I'm not upset with you, but if you want truth, most of what I see on this thread is the spreading of gossip.

   Every monastery is different, like every person is different.  As a side note, the monks of St. Benedict tried to kill him with poisoned wine, but when St. Benedict blessed his wine the cup broke.  They were trying to kill him because they thought he was too strict.
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« Reply #27 on: October 16, 2005, 01:15:14 AM »

"Our Affiliated Monasteries"

I'm pretty sure that I've seen this language before on the English websites of some monasteries in Greece, where they were referring to monasteries under the same elder.  I think this may be another example of our understanding of fractured American Orthodoxy clouds our vision of what's normal.
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« Reply #28 on: October 16, 2005, 02:21:22 AM »

Quote
was taught to believe in conspiracy theories (some of which were that man never landed on the moon, that America is made up of a shadow government that is run by Masons and Jews) and that the Protocols of Zion are an authentic document rather than racist fiction.

As I mentioned that is simply a cultural thing.ÂÂ  Eastern Europeans are generally more into conspiracies and anti-semitism.ÂÂ  Within a generation or two thos cultural elements will be almost completely washed away.ÂÂ  Until then it is something most of us (i.e spiritual Children of Greek monastics) look past.ÂÂ  

Quote
I was taught to flagellate myself with electrical cord when I had sinful thoughts and that this was normal behavior that Saints indulged in.
ÂÂ  

This is the ascetical teaching of the Church.  That bodily mortification does help the spiritual life in general (hence the strict fasting rules of Orthodox Church).  Many saints secretly wore chains and such.  A little sell inflicted paint that is not dangerous nor leaves any wound that last more than a few minutes is all that is being advocated in the writtings of Elder Joseph.  And Elder Joseph wrote that letter to a monk - and it would be helpful to read the entire letter to put some context to it.  For some people under the right guidance, such a practice could be beneficial - but it is surely not a core practice of St. Anthony's nor said that everyone must practice it.  An analogy of what Elder Joseph was teaching would be to go splash cold water on your face if you are sluggish in prayer to wake yourself up.  Also consider that Elder Joseph fought with real demons, the level of battle he was at is no where close to the average person's battle (monk or layman).  ÃƒÆ’‚Â

Quote
here was talk of “spies” sent to the monastery from the Archdiocese to keep an eye on things and report to Bishop Anthony. If you were suspected then usually a lay pilgrim who was loyal to the monastery would talk to you in the men’s guesthouse or whenever there was an opportunity to see what your purpose was there. This would happen usually without express orders from anyone at the monastery, but they would find out later that it had been done. We were all told, of course, to deny that the monastery re-baptized people to anyone who inquired until they were found to be trustworthy by Geronda Paisios or “Elder” Ephraim. It was very important to them to keep this a secret. I was told to take it with me to my grave.

Again this something that LAY people around the monastery dwell upon.ÂÂ  Never have I heard either Elder there say anything of spies.ÂÂ  Nor have any monks here or on Athos mentioned it to me.ÂÂ  Such paranoia and hysteria are lay people with not enough to do in their lives - not the monasteries.ÂÂ  When I confronted a lay person that hangs around there ALL THE TIME about this sort of issue and how *just maybe* if none of the monks ever said anything about it it was either not true or not important.ÂÂ  And the response?ÂÂ  "Oh well maybe Geronda just doesn't want them to know that."ÂÂ  

I rest my case - it is the secularism of the general GOA vs. the austerity of the Athonite tradition, plus a few convert whackos that are the problems, not monasticism nor the elders.ÂÂ  
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« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2006, 09:15:12 PM »

I really don't know - or perhaps I don't want to suppose - who spreads the false rumor that Elder Ephraim was expelled from Mt Athos or that he was forced to leave it. Just the contrary! I am an Orthodox Christian from Greece. Please permit me to expose the facts:
Fr Ephraim was being asked during many years from some spiritual children of him, in America and Canada, to create a monastery there. He hesitated. However, he prayed during 10 years to God to reveal him His will. Fr Ephraim went to America out of obedience, not motivated by ambition or pride. I do know that the monks in his monastery in Mt Athos, Philotheou, didn't want him to leave, there were strong reactions. He was the spiritual father of other 3 monasteries in Mt Athos and of several women's monasteries in Greece. My wife has known him, he is a man of God and the monasteries he has founded are a true blessing for the Orthodoxy in America.
However, it is clear that they are a few anti-monastic priests and bishops, especially in the GOA, among them Metropolitan Methodios of Boston (a clone of the late archbishop Iakovos Koukouzis), who has publicly called Fr Ephraim (without having the courage to mention his name) "a cult leader". It is really a shame! Once I had met in Greece a retired Greek American bishop (now he is dead, may God reposes his soul) who talked about Fr Ephraim with hatred. The problem is not the monasticism, which is a blessed institution of the Church. Believe me, in Greece there is no pseudo-dilemma of the kind "Monastery vs. church". If such a dilemma exists in the USA, it has been artificially created by some secularized laymen and clergymen who insist on ignoring the Orthodox theology and tradition. Permit me to say, it's just ridiculous that Metropilitan Methodios, who is making very anti-monastic statements, officiated last year in St Irene Chrysovalantou church in Astoria, during its feasday: St Irene was an abbess in a monastery in Constantinople and, as it is said in her Live, numerous people used to visit her for spiritual counsel! Someone should remind the good bishop how many holy monks and nuns are in the calendar of the Church in which he is a shepherd, by divine dispensation...He should also know that St Anthimos the Wonder-worker of Chios (+1960), canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, not only was a monk, but he also founded a women's monastery in the island of Chios and that he had been slandered and persecuted for this by some secularized "Orthodox" laymen, who considered monasticism as a useless and obsolete institution.
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« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2006, 09:25:45 PM »

Just so you know, there are many here in the Boston area who are itching for a monastery to be built; and many others who have heard slanderous rumors and such, who want no part in it.  I love having monasteries close to me, but then again we do have 6 monastic communities in the Pittsburgh Metropolis, 2 founded by Elder Ephraim.  88% of the parishes have a community within a 3 hour drive, so we're lucky.
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« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2006, 09:37:17 PM »

If some laymen or clergymen don't like monasteries in Boston, they have the choice not to visit them. However, they don't have the right to prohibit the foundation of a monastery (there is only the schismatic Holy Transfiguration monastery, but I could hardly recommend to anyone to visit it). I insist on calling things by their name: it's Metropolitan Methodios - who boasts in the official website of "his" diocese about his philanthropy   Shocked- who doesn't want any monastery there. The problem is not monasticism, the problem is the un-Orthodox attitude of a few secularized clergymen towards monasticism...
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« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2006, 09:47:12 PM »

It's the metropolitan, it's some of the laity, and it's the continued presence of HTM that does it.  HTM isn't too bad, if you're just going to buy icons, but I don't like the fact that they've anathematized us, yet we still go support them in their multiple-schism existence.
As for him being a mini-IAKOVOS, I agree to a point; his temperment is similar and whatnot.  But IAKOVOS only objected to monasteries because of what happened with HTM; he was open to the idea in the beginning.  And while I didn't like how he handled many things, he was ready to push for jurisdictional unity in this country - a dream of many here (and he was the only one influential enough to pull it off... the death of Patriarch DEMETRIOS II killed the chances).
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« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2006, 10:19:22 PM »

Orthodox unity is necessary in the USA, it is evident and it is a must. It is a question of principle. However, I don't think that Iakovos Koukouzis was the suitable person to realize this. Personally, I'm glad that he didn't became the head of an autocephalous Church or, even worse, a Patriarch and I think that he was being motivated rather by ambition than by love for Orthodoxy. I know clergymen - not related to Fr Ephraim, I have to precise it - who had known Iakovos and told me unequivocally either that he did a harm to Orthodoxy or that he was a kind of an Eastern-Rite protestant. I have heard a very long interview of him in a Greek radio station (Skairadio), published later in a book under the title "Ego o Iakovos, Me, Iakovos" Roll Eyes. I was impressed by the fact that he talked with much pride (at least this was my feeling), in an extremely secularized manner and that he never mentioned the name of Christ (a friend of mine, a French-Italian, convert to Orthodoxy, says "Christ bothers!" Cheesy). I left with the impression that Iakovos was more a humanist than an Orthodox bishop.
I would like to see one day a unified Orthodox Church in the States with her first hierarch a man loving Christ and the Orthodox tradition and living the Orthodox faith, like f.ex. bishop Basil of Wichita (Antiochian) or Tychon of San Francisco (OCA) or the newly elected Tychon of E. Pennsylvania (again OCA). If you ask me why these men and not one of the actual bishops of the GOA, well.... Lips Sealed
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« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2006, 10:25:37 PM »

I think you're a bit misguided to question the suitability of all the bishops of the GOA, but then again, that will be a point where we agree to disagree, because I've discovered that on fora like this one won't be convinced to change their minds about hierarchs...

Whether or not IAKOVOS would have been a suitable starting bishop for a unified Autocephalous church isn't the question - he was the only one who could have done it, and now that the effort was squashed, there has been much splintering done in the aftermath.  Even if you don't think he was "godly" enough to be the 1st, all that would matter at that point was that it happened- the door would be open for a godly man to be elected the next Archbishop of All America after he died/retired.  (And he had 0 chance of becoming a Patriarch: he was publically anti-Turkish Gov't, so they had him blacklisted from being an EP candidate; and if an autocephalous church was started here, he wouldn't have proclaimed himself Patriarch, he would have just kept the title Archbishop).
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« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2006, 10:37:02 PM »

Perhaps it was providential that Iakovos didn't become the first Archbishop of an autocephalous American Orthodox Church. The unity will come, sooner or later. It is probable that the OCA unites with the Antiochians sooner or later. Then the position of the GOA will be quite difficult. The EP has to understand that the Orthodox in the USA have the right to have their own autocephalous Church, especially now when there are more and more converts (a good number of priests, bishops, monks and nuns among them).
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« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2006, 10:41:23 PM »

Perhaps it was providential that Iakovos didn't become the first Archbishop of an autocephalous American Orthodox Church. The unity will come, soon or later. It is probable that the OCA unites with the Antiochians sooner or later. Then the position of the GOA will be quite difficult. The EP has to understand that the Orthodox in the USA have the right to have their own autocephalous Church, especially now when there are more and more converts (a good number of priests, bishops, monks and nuns among them).

I dont believe his all-holiness would abandon us and subject us to such humiliation. Even if the antiochans and metropolia were to unite (and they wont because the metropolia is too financially unstable), so what? They would still be smaller than the Greeks. There will be no autocephaly in the Americas and I am quite happy for that fact, for I do not know that I would be willing to participate in an autocephalous American church.
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« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2006, 10:47:09 PM »

Well, let's be careful with the language; while I am a big proponent of a unified jurisdiction, no one has the "right" to an autocephalous church.  That's a protestant idea - the "right" to self-govern is really a "priviledge" in Orthodoxy - the autocephaly of any church can be revoked by a Universal Synod.  But this is off-topic.

As far as the OCA and the Antiochians uniting, I don't see it in the near future; the Antiochians are Autonomous, but would need the stamp of Damascus to do such a move, and I don't think Damascus sees either group as being ready for unity.  I think the OCA should change the "ethnic diocese" system that they have first, before anyone tries to unity with them (or vice-versa).  How can we expect to clear a situation full of overlapping diocese if the group that we're looking to (the OCA) has them too!
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« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2006, 10:51:42 PM »

Well, let's be careful with the language;

Rest assured, I was most careful with the language I used, I actually went back through and changed some of the words and nuances a couple times. Wink
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« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2006, 10:59:01 PM »

Sorry, Cleveland, you are right, my expression was too much strong. I should have written "The United States could - or should - be given the privilege to have an autocephalous Orthodox Church". However, we have to recognize that the current situation, with a city having more than one bishops, is absolutely against the canons and the spirit of the Orthodox Church. In the Church language this is called "ethnophyletism" and is considered to be a heresy (Great Council of Constantinople, 1870).
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« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2006, 11:37:24 PM »

I dont believe his all-holiness would abandon us and subject us to such humiliation. Even if the antiochans and metropolia were to unite (and they wont because the metropolia is too financially unstable), so what? They would still be smaller than the Greeks. There will be no autocephaly in the Americas and I am quite happy for that fact, for I do not know that I would be willing to participate in an autocephalous American church.

Maybe this "humilation" would be what's best for the GOA (or maybe just you).
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« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2006, 11:50:25 PM »

Maybe this "humilation" would be what's best for the GOA (or maybe just you).

Unlikely, it would kill the Church in this country; and potentially even allow the radical americans converts sects to gain a foothold. We must maintain our ties to the old world at all costs.
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« Reply #42 on: February 14, 2006, 11:55:15 PM »

Oh, I am well aware of the problem with ethnophyletism; the situation in this country is that way and more; we have overlapping jurisdictions representing different autocephalous churches (OCA, AOA, GOA, et al), we have overlapping jurisdictions within the same autocephalous church (OCA's ethnic diocese), and we have the schismatic churches just like the other orthodox countries.

It will take more than a simple agreement to bring jurisdictional unity to this country; as I have advocated on this site in the past, first the various ministries must be united, then a comprehensive plan for how to re-district diocese and reassign bishops must be made, and then there must be some sort of implementation.
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« Reply #43 on: February 14, 2006, 11:56:54 PM »

I'm still going to maintain that jurisdictional unity is more important than autocephaly, and that if we don't have the first one firmly cemented for years before the second is implemented, all is doomed to either failure or a long period of upheaval.
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« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2006, 12:38:02 AM »

Whats really sad is that the 3 nearest Orthodox churches to my house are all considered "schismatic" in some sense. One is a schismatic Greek parish which's priest had an argument  with our archbishop, the enxt closest one by about 100 meters is a Macedonian church, and the next one is a huge coptic church. There are like 20 other Orthodox parishes in my city, but yet they are all not united. Rarely, have I heard or seen of concelebration and when it is done, every parish has to out-do the other parishes, either for the sake of the Theotokos, Prophet, Elias, St. Savvas, St. Andrew, or for the Sake of Greece, Romania, Lebanon, or Serbia.

Concelebration is the most important thing for us if anyone is gonna talk about unity. The last time I saw unity between orthodox was when our dance group went and danced at the Serbian community's pavillion and they came to ours and in both instances, both groups did the "extended 3 fingered sign of the cross" in honour of our Orthodoxy. But no liturgy in sight. Sure, once in a while a serbian or ukrainian priest will come into our altar and chant a litany at which our whole parish is buzzing with fervour..."eww we got a xeno priest today."

What I'd really like is once or twice a year, all the youth of the surrounding orthodox churches of the city get together, and celebrate a liturgy in all languages including english, then have discussion panels and ask father sessions- and THEN we might have a chance of both unity AND ecclesiastically-educated  pan Orthodox youth to bring about the future unity.

Instead of only knowing Dimitrio, Ares, Iorgos, Eleni, and, Stavroula, I'd also know Miroslav, Elena,  Amir, and Maryam who are also Orthodox youth in my area...

Concelebration and celebration.
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